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Pittsburgh Metro Area Postal Workers' Union, Afl- Cio v. United States Postal Service

April 16, 2008

PITTSBURGH METRO AREA POSTAL WORKERS' UNION, AFL- CIO, A LABOR ORGANIZATION AND AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS' UNION, AFL-CIO, A LABOR ORGANIZATION PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge

Judge Nora Barry Fischer

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The Pittsburgh Metro Area Postal Workers' Union, AFL-CIO and the American Postal Workers' Union, AFL- CIO (collectively "Unions") brought this action to enforce an arbitration award entered in their favor by Arbitrator Elliot Newman ("Arbitrator") on April 9, 2007, against Defendant United States Postal Service ("Postal Service"). Before this Court for consideration is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, or, in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment [9]. For the following reasons, the Postal Service's motion is granted and this case is remanded to the Arbitrator for clarification of his award.

BACKGROUND

The Union and Postal Service are parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("agreement") effective November 21, 1990 through November 20, 1994, November 21, 1994 through November 20, 1998, November 21, 1998 through November 20, 2000, and November 21, 2000 through November 20, 2006. (Docket No. 1, at ¶ 6). As part of the agreement, the parties agreed that "all disputes, differences, disagreements, or complaints between the parties relating to wages, hours and conditions of employment, including disputes over interpretation or application of the terms of the [agreement], and compliance therewith, are required to be resolved through the contractual grievance procedure." (Docket No. 1, at ¶ 8). Said contractual procedure provides that grievances which cannot be resolved by the parties be sent to arbitration. (Docket No. 1, at ¶ 9).

Between the years 1994 and 1998, the Union filed several "casual in lieu of" grievances against the Postal Service, alleging violations of Article 7.1.B.1 of the parties' agreement "by hiring casual clerks at the Pittsburgh PA P&DC in lieu of full time and part time clerks from March 25, 1994 until August 20, 2004." (Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 1-2). These causes were jointly consolidated (at USPS Case C98C- 1C- C 01019331; APWU Case No. 2003131) and were brought before the Arbitrator in three hearings held on July 13, 2006, September 7, 2006 and December 14, 2006. (Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 1-5). At said hearings, the parties were given the opportunity "to present testimony, examine and cross-examine witnesses and introduce documentary evidence in support of their respective positions." (Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 3). Specifically, the Union alleged that the Postal Service hired employees in violation of Article 7.1.B.1, which provides:

Article 7 Employee Classifications

Section 1. Definition and Use

B. Supplemental Work Force

1. The supplemental work force shall be comprised of casual employees. Casual employees are those who may be utilized as a limited term supplemental work force, but may not be employed in lieu of full or part-time employees.

(Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 4). The record was closed on March 5, 2007.

The Arbitrator then addressed the issue of whether the Postal Service violated this portion of the agreement "by the manner in which casual employees were hired in the Clerk Craft at the Pittsburgh, PA P& DC" and the remedy for said violation, if any. (Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 5). On April 9, 2007, the Arbitrator issued an opinion, holding in favor of the Union and finding that the Postal Service had hired casual clerks "in lieu of full and part time clerks," (Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 16), in violation of Article 7.1.B.1 of the agreement between the Union and Postal Service. (Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 1). Specifically, the Arbitrator held that the Postal Service, "maintained a steady and consistent workforce of casuals in lieu of employees, without any demonstrated genuine need at any particular time ... . While the Postal Service may have complied with Article 7.1.B.2 , 3 and 4 in its hiring of casual employees during the period from 1994 to 2004, it did not comply with Article 7.1.B.1 [sic] as interpreted by Arbitrator Das ... 'Therefore, on the merits, the grievance must be, and is, sustained.' " (Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 16). Furthermore, the Arbitrator held: "As during period from 1994 to 2004, casual clerks were not hired at the Pittsburgh P&DC as a limited term supplemental work force, but rather were hired in lieu of full and part-time clerks, the grievances will be sustained with an appropriate remedy." (Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 16).

As to the remedy and award, the Arbitrator ruled, in pertinent part:

The appropriate scope of the remedy would be the hours worked by casual clerks from March 25, 1994 to August 20, 2004. Subtracted from this remedy should be 500,000 hours for the hiring of casual clerks during the Christmas season from 1994 through 2003. The overtime payments due the appropriate full and part time clerks should be calculated at the "then current overtime rates" between March of 1994 and August of 2004. If the parties wish, they may substitute "at the level 5, step 0 rate" or establish an equivalent average dollar amount applicable over that time period.

The recipients of the monetary awards are identified as follows: "All full and part-time clerk craft employees on the Pittsburgh P&DC's seniority rolls are to receive a prorated share of the remedy based upon the amount of time on the rolls during the period of the violation from March 25, 1994 to August 20, 2004."

The Postal Service is tasked to calculate and effectuate this remedy. (Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 17- 18). In concluding, the Arbitrator noted that, "I intend this Award to be sufficiently detailed to avoid a protracted dispute over its implementation. However, as my efforts fall short, and interpretive questions remain, I retain jurisdiction over the remedy so as to resolve any questions or disputes." (Docket No. 10, Exh. 1, at 18).

The Unions filed the instant Complaint on June 8, 2007, seeking an order enforcing the April 9, 2007 award issued by the Arbitrator. (Docket No. 1). Subsequently, on July 20, 2007, the Postal Service sent a letter to the Unions stating that the Postal Service had, in applying the Arbitrator's award, calculated that the total amount due the Pittsburgh craft employees is $26,914,151.40. (Docket No. 10, Exh. 2). The letter further provided:

This amount was arrived at by applying the two step four settlements referenced in the first paragraph on page 17 of the decision. The total overtime worked by casuals for the years 1994 through 2004 is 897,138.38 hours and using $30.00 per hour as a standard overtime rate we arrived at the $26, 914,151.40 amount. The overtime hours worked by the casuals during this period are taken from an exhibit already in evidence in the hearing record. (Docket No. 10, Exh. 2).

On July 25, 2007, the Unions responded to the Postal Service's letter, disagreeing with the Postal Service's interpretation of the Arbitrator's award with regard to the Postal Service's use of "overtime hours worked." (Docket No. 10, Exh. 3). Specifically, the Unions contended:

I disagree with your interpretation that Arbitrator Newman awarded monetary remedy for overtime worked by casuals as, that matter was [sic] not an issue ... Your determinations distort the stated remedy and ... would not satisfy compliance with the award ... . However, as to your overtime rate itself; whereas you established the $30.00 per hour rate, be advised that PMAPWU agrees to substitute that rate as the "equivalent average dollar amount" per hour for calculating overtime payments, as instructed by Arbitrator Newman.

(Docket No. 10, Exh. 3). The Postal Service countered on August 1, 2007, suggesting that the disputes over the award be remanded to the Arbitrator for clarification of the award. (Docket No. 10, Exh. 4). The Postal Service also argued that the Step 4 grievance settlements were not presented to the Arbitrator, nor was the Postal Service given an opportunity to provide argument as to the inapplicability of this procedure. (Docket No. 10, Exh. 4). In turn, the Unions provided their response by letter dated August 2, 2007, arguing that clarification by the Arbitrator would be inappropriate. (Docket No. 10, Exh. 5). In reply, the Postal Service sent a letter dated August 17, 2007 to the Arbitrator, requesting that he retain jurisdiction over the award dispute. (Docket No. 10, Exh. 6).

On August 31, 2007, the Postal Service filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 9) and Brief in Support. (Docket No. 10). The Unions filed their Brief in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment on September 27, 2007. The Postal Service filed a Reply Brief on October 11, 2007 and the Union filed a Sur-Reply on October 17, 2007. The Court held a hearing on the Postal Service's motion on October 25, 2007, at which the parties provided oral argument on the motion. By Order dated October 30, 2007, the Court ordered a transcript of said proceeding. On or about November 9, 2007, the parties and the Court received said transcript.

JURISDICTION

A district court has jurisdiction to enforce or vacate an arbitration award pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). See United Transp. Union Local 1589 v. Suburban Transport Corp., 51 F.3d 376 (3d Cir. 1995). In its Reply Brief in support of its motion, the Postal Service argues that it moved under Rule 12(b)(1) "only in an abundance of caution, and because the Third Circuit appears to be somewhat inconsistent on this point." (Docket No. 16, at 9 n. 4). However, the Third Circuit has clearly held that a district court has jurisdiction over disputes to enforce arbitration awards. Union Switch & Signal Div. American Standard Inc. v. United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers Local 610, 900 F.2d 608, 612 (3d Cir. 1990) (holding that "[a] district court exercises this jurisdiction not only when it enforces an award resolving an issue the employer and the union have contracted to arbitrate, but also when it enters an order directing that the parties undertake an arbitration process they have contracted to follow"). While this Court does not have jurisdiction over the merits of the grievance dispute between the Union and the Postal Service, Hart v. Overseas Nat. Airways, Inc., 541 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1976) (citations omitted), it does have jurisdiction over disputes regarding the finality of the arbitrator's award and remand to the arbitrator for purposes of clarifying the arbitrator's award, id. at 389, 393-394 (citations omitted) (granting summary judgment and holding that remand was appropriate where arbitrator's award was vague and ambiguous). Furthermore, while the Postal Service relies on ...


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